McCormack tight-lipped as Nationals consider replacement for embattled Joyce

IN THE HOUSE: Member for Riverina Michael McCormack and his embattled party leader Barnaby Joyce in Parliament on Wednesday. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen
IN THE HOUSE: Member for Riverina Michael McCormack and his embattled party leader Barnaby Joyce in Parliament on Wednesday. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

Member for Riverina Michael McCormack is remaining tight-lipped, but political pundits are continuing to tip him as one of the favourites to replace embattled leader Barnaby Joyce.

A spokesman for Mr McCormack said late on Wednesday that the Minister for Veterans Affairs would not be making any comment as speculation about the future of Mr Joyce continued to mount.

Mr Joyce is under fire over the end of his marriage and his relationship with a former staff member, who was appointed to two highly paid roles in the offices of other Nationals MPs.

Questions have also been raised after Fairfax Media revealed Mr Joyce billed taxpayers to spend 50 nights in Canberra when Parliament was not sitting in 2017 – more than any other cabinet minister.

Fairfax is also reporting that Mr McCormack is tipped as a contender, along with Victorian MP Darren Chester.

But speculation coming from Canberra on Wednesday was that current Deputy Leader Bridget McKenzie will retain her role.

Both Senator McKenzie and Darren Chester are Victorian, and there was questions as to whether the Nationals would want both of their leaders hailing from the same state.

Senator McKenzie was in Wagga earlier this month for the launch of a new suicide prevention program and the announcement of new GP interns for the region.

Mr McCormack has lost out on winning the deputy leadership, once to former senator Fiona Nash and late last year, to Senator McKenzie.

Charles Sturt University lecturer Dominic O’Sullivan believes Australian political traditions could rule several would-be senior Nationals out of any leadership race, as the deputy prime minister is usually a member of the House of Representatives and not a senator.

With a party room of just 21, Dr O’Sullivan said this would add strength to any bid Mr McCormack – or any other contender – made for the leadership.

“It’s a small party room,” he told The Daily Advertiser on Wednesday.

“Not many people would need to change their vote to get a change.”

With senators likely to be left out of the race, Dr O’Sullivan suggested Mr McCormack, Mr Chester and Queensland MP David Littleproud were possibilities in a leadership ballot.

The ABC reported on Wednesday that Mr McCormack is “regarded as a steady set of hands who would be a capable, reliable and sensible leader”.

Mr McCormack, who is the Nationals’ deputy leader in the House of Representatives, was elected as the Member for Riverina in 2010, after the retirement of Kay Hull.

He was appointed to his current portfolios, which include veterans’ affairs and defence personnel, just prior to Christmas 2017.

Prior to that, he was the Minister for Small Business.

Mr McCormack grew up on a farm at Brucedale, just outside Wagga, and was a journalist and business owner before his election to Parliament.

Mrs Hull has told The Daily Advertiser she would not be commenting on the current leadership issues.

“This is a critical time for the party and I don’t think I should be making a comment,” she has said.

Wes Fang, who will shortly finish up as chairman of the Nationals’ Riverina Electorate Council after being sworn into State Parliament, declined to comment.

CSU lecturer Dominic O’Sullivan believes political traditions could rule several would-be contenders out of any leadership race, as the deputy prime minister is traditional a member of the House of Representatives and not a senator.

With a party room of just 21, Dr O’Sullivan said this would add strength to any bid Mr McCormack – or any other contender – made for the leadership.

“It’s a small party room,” he said.

“Not many need to change their vote to get a change.”

With senators likely to be left out of the race, Dr O’Sullivan suggested Mr McCormack, Mr Chester and Queensland MP David Littleproud were possibilities in a leadership ballot.

Comments

Discuss "McCormack tipped as favourite to replace Joyce"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.